Lisa Marie Rollins

Connecting Black Adoptees

By Leticia Miranda Jan 06, 2009

Adopted as a baby by white parents, Lisa Marie Rollins grew up as the only Black girl in a predominantly white community in Washington. “If I had issues at school or there were things that I didn’t understand that were happening, [my parents] would say, ‘they’re just bad people, and we have to pray for them’,” she says.

In search of community, Rollins, who is Black and Filipina, began blogging and found other Black adoptees. They shared similar circumstances—from how they entered the foster care system to growing up isolated from communities of color. What began as a discussion group has now grown into an international network of 50 Black members called the Adopted & Fostered African Adults of the African Diaspora. Members include Julia Chinyere Oparah who coedited Outsiders Within, a collection of writings by adoptees. Rollins herself has created a one-woman show called Ungrateful Daughter, and the group is looking for funding to make a documentary on the experiences of Black adoptees.

Chinyere Oparah, one of the network’s members and a Nigerian Igbo/British adoptee, says that the group’s work challenges narrow understandings of Black identity and authenticity. “It’s not so much about a nationalist mythology of a particular history but about fragmentation and hybridity and diaspora,” says Oparah. “These are new ways of thinking about Black identity that I think transracial adoptees and other Black adoptees can really speak to.”